Sunday, 14 April 2019

Van Gogh and Britain Exhibition Review.

Self Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh

Where is it?

At Tate Britain ,Millbank London UK.

To look up details of opening times, how to get there and how to buy tickets click on this link 

Buy tickets in advance, many dates and times were sold out when I went.
I have subscribed to membership of this group of Tate Galleries, it means I can go when I like. The membership rooms and cafes are excellent places to take a rest or meet up with others. 
Allow about 1-2 hours to see the exhibition

What is the exhibition about? 

This exhibition is in two parts:

1.Van Gogh's experience of living and working  in Victorian London as a young man and how this experience influenced his work as an artist seeing poverty and hardship as suitable subjects to paint.The influence of Impressionism is also shown.

2.The second part shows the influence that Van Gogh's work had on British artists up until the 1950s.Paintings by Epstein, Sickert, Gilman, Gore and Bacon show Van Gogh's influence on these artists.

What I thought about the exhibition

There was a 30 minute line waiting to go in .This did mean that there was strict control over the number of people being allowed in at any time and avoided the terrible overcrowding that has been an annoying feature of some block buster exhibitions recently.This wait adds to the time you should expect to allow for the whole experience.

There were some lovely paintings by artists whose work Van Gogh admired such as Constable and Pissaro. 

The exhibition was very enjoyable with some  drawings by Van Gogh that were new
 to me .There were plenty of favourite works on display and I was pleased to find that photography of most works was allowed .I loved the sunflower room.
There was not too much emphasis on Van Gogh's mental illness although this was part of his genius .

What to look out for

Starry Night

Prison Courtyard

Wheat Field

Buy the catalogue after you have seen the exhibition, it is heavy to carry around and will add to your baggage allowance if you are travelling by air.Click on the link below to order one from Amazon to your home address.


Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Acrylic Painting for Artists

What are acrylic paints?
Acrylic paints are a relatively new medium and can be used in many different ways and techniques.
They were made popular by contemporary artists such as David Hockney and his swimming pool paintings.
The colours are bright  and suited to to both professionals and beginners.
Some artists like to use them thickly on canvas like oil paints.
A water colour effect can be achieved by using watered down paint with acrylic gel or water on paper.

Stunning , experimental effects can be used with collage .

They dry very quickly, you can create a painting and have it ready to hang on the wall after an hour.
No smelly mixers of oil or turps are needed .Acrylic Gel mixers are useful for thinning or special effects and to stick down collage.

If you make a mistake you can paint over it.

Acrylic paints are my favourite paints , I have been using them for over twenty years.There are many makes, my favourites are recommended at the bottom of the page.

I like the bright colours and get the results that I want for snow scenes in winter, bright beaches in the summer and for painting flowers.

 Here are some of my paintings using acrylic paints

School's Out
The Salvation Army Band



Daffodils and Anemones

Gone Tropical

Low Tide
Click here to see  about my favourite Liquitex paints and Terry Harrison's book which is full of excellent advice on how to get started.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Watercolour : NEO-PASTELS

Neo-Pastels, soluble wax pastels are a useful addition to any artists range of art products.
They look like wax crayon .You can draw with them just as you would with any crayon on paper but then you can brush over your drawing with water and the colours turn from outline marks into a lovely water colour painting.

I enjoy drawing from life .The group that I belong to draws from models who pose for a limited amount of time.The models change poses frequently with a longer pose of about 40 minutes at the end.You have to get a lot down on your paper quickly and I find that I can do this well with this medium.

They are also ideal for taking out or on vacation as the make that I use come in a sturdy tin and I use water filled brush pens such as those made by Pentel as a convenient water supply. Just remember to empty out the water if you  carry them in cabin baggage when flying. 

This was a fast portrait  on paper useing a small range of neo pastels first in outline and then with water and a brush.


I also use these pastels on top of stretched canvas as basic planning for paintings in acrylic.
Wild Roses

They come in a huge range of colours ,a tin of these crayons would be a lovely gift for any artist.Click on the links below to see how to get them delivered from Amazon


Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Gouache for artists.

What is gouache?


Gouache is a form of watercolour .It is water based and uses the same pigments but they are bulked out with white fillers and  it is  more opaque than pure water colour.It produces strong , brilliant colours .

It can be bought in fat tubes in an enormous range of colours Recently a range of gouache colours has been produced in tablet form which is much easier to carry around.These are some of my gouache paints, well used as you will see because I like this medium



  Gouache is often the choice of designers and illustrators, it can be used in thick layers.

 I like to design my own Birthday and Christmas cards and use coloured pastel paper with gouache.The coloured paper  gives a good background.

The cake




 One of my favourite artists who uses gouache is Pamela Kay , famous for her flower paintings and still life.



 Gouache can be used with water colour, the same brushes and paper are fine but use separate water for rinsing your brushes otherwise the water colur can turn cloudy.

I prefer to use gouache on its own.


Click on the links below to see what is avalable on Amazon 



Friday, 22 March 2019

Best Watercolour Art Books and Equipment

Watercolours are often the first choice of painting method for beginners.
Many beginners think that a photo realistic likeness is the objective of painting  but this is not the only goal.
Painting goes beyond  a laboured attempt at a facsimile of the scene in front of you.Capturing the essence of a subject is about colour,light and shadow, shapes,  patterns and mood.

Looking at examples of work by well known masters of water colour will give you inspiration and help you focus your first attempts on what inspires you.It may be landscapes, portraits, flowers,  animals or still life.Maybe you want to start a journal like Edith Holden the Edwardian Lady who kept an illustrated diary of the countryside around her. Her journal was found in a dining room cupboard years after she was dead and became a best seller.


One of my favourite landscape water colour artists is Rowland Hilder,known for his paintings of the English Countryside.                                                

Winter Landscape by Rowland Hilder
The choice of materials available can be overwhelming.
The essentials are

  1. A box of paints, these are easier for the beginner than tubes but no more that 15 colours. Windsor and Newton Artist quality if that is affordable otherwise Cotman are a good second choice.
  2. Brushes, 3 in size 5,7,12. Sable are lovely but 3 of these need a mortgage so a cheaper version will do to start with.
  3. Paper. I like gummed blocks which do not need stretching.
  4. A water container--a plastic bottle will do.
  5. Kitchen roll for blotting up 
  6. A  board on flat table if you are working at home or a board and some clips if you plan to work outside.
  7. Water colour pencils are valuable for drawing a faint outline at the planning stage (use very pale blue or yellow then the line will dissolve into the painting)I like very good quality pencils which can be used with the paints for details.Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle  are superb, I find that I do not need to take anything else except for paper and a water brush for sketching on vacation.
You may find it economical and practical to buy a whole set in a box.

There are dozens of instruction books on the market .
My personal choice of books for beginners  are Learn to Paint Watercolour Quickly by Hazel Soan,and almost anything from the instruction books of Terry Harrison and Barry Herniman.Shirley Trevenna's DVD are very instructive



There is no magic formula to painting. Visit exhibitions held by water colour societies for inspiration.There are many  societies around the world,they hold exhibitions and run courses.This society exhibits in London but their work can be seen online


           Click on my selection from Amazon below to see what is available

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Best Art Technique Books for Everyone

  Get a Library

  Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist you will find that techniques,products and fashions change .Some  books for your  personal library may give you the information that you need for mastering both basic and more advanced skills.

I have hundreds of books , I have had some for years starting with a book on Renoir that was a school prize in 1956. I love all my  art books .

I own all the books that I have reviewed describing and recommending those that I turn to most.



Some of the best all purpose technique and product books I know are by Hazel Harrison .

  Her book on watercolours  will get any beginner off to a good start and find some refreshing information for old hands.This  book works methodically through all the materials that are available and then describes individual techniques and how to master them with illustrated examples.Watercolours are often the first choice of anyone wanting to take up painting for the first time.

Some paints and papers  and brushes are expensive .Use this book to help you choose the most suitable products for you.



 Acrylics are a relatively new medium and the choice of some notable modern artists like David Hockney.They are mixed with water or a gel medium and can be applied to paper or canvas .They are very forgiving and mistakes can easily be rectified by painting them over with more paint.They dry very quickly , you can paint a picture and have it on the wall within an hour.Hazel Harrison's Encyclopedia of Acrylic Techniques is one of my most dog eared books,full of advice on the use of these practical paints.



  If you fancy trying pastels then the Pastel Artists Bible will give you all the basic information you need before selecting materials. There are several kinds of pastels,it is as well to review your options before choosing your materials to avoid making expensive mistakes.


Drawing and Sketching

Before you start to paint it is as well to develop some basic  drawing skills.There are many books on the market but I have never found a better one than A Foundation Course by Peter Stanyard and Terry Rosenberg ,it is worth seeking out a second hand copy .

Keeping a sketchbook is a good habit to develop for and new and experienced artists. I have always liked Moira Huntley's Sketchbook Secrets. This book demonstrates the development of sketches to finished drawing.Sketching on holiday is well covered with advice on how to cut down on materials for air travel.


For your kindle 

If you want a book that covers techniques for several mediums Artists Painting Techniques by Hashim Akib and others is available in a kindle version.



 Click on any of the books named below to see how to buy them from Amazon



Sunday, 10 March 2019

Pastel Drawing


There are two kinds of pastels, soft pastels which are soft and chalky  and oil pastels which are harder.Most users prefer soft pastels which are easy to blend giving a lovely painterly result.If you are new to painting and drawing this is good and forgiving medium to try.No water, or smelly oil or turpentine.No squishy tubes to keep the top on.You just brush up anything that falls on the floor.

There are many makes of soft pastels,the most costly and lovely to use are Sennelier and Unison but if you are new to this medium and want to practise buy a cheaper make otherwise you may end up with a lot of very expensive dust on the floor.I have found that the Pastel Artists's Bible is  a comprehensive guide to the different types of pastels available and shows a variety of ways they can be applied with useful examples.


                       The artist Lionel Aggett uses Unison pastels  in this landscape 


              French Impressionist Degas used Sennelier pastels for many ballet scenes


Choice of paper is important.Daler Rowney Murano cool and warm coloured pastel paper is my favourite .The surface has a tooth which the pastel clings on to.Ingres paper is also good.I find paper with gritty surfaces difficult.

A good supply of pastel pencils are useful for putting in detail.I buy a lot of my art materials from Amazon.They are pristine fresh and have not been damaged from being handled by staff and customers in a store.

Rembrandt soft pastels are good for both beginners and more experienced artists.They produce a sturdy box containing a generous 15 half sticks in a good selection of colours.
Daler Rowney coloured pastel paper provides an instant background removing the expanse of white paper to fill that is so intimidating when starting a drawing.The pack shown below has lovely shades of blue.

Click on the pictures below to see these and other products on offer at Amazon

Now You Have Pastels and Paper

Before you begin pastel painting analyse some artist examples.Use coloured paper so that the light colours have value and show up.You do not have to do a whole finished scene to achieve a good result.
This pastel sketch by Mary Cassatt  has an unfinished look.She uses hatched strokes of colour and finished with a few defining strokes in black .She has not drawn a whole scene completely covered in pastel colour resulting in a fresh ,lively portrait.

Another approach is to  smudge colours together,take care not to overwork the blending otherwise you will end up with mud.Focus on important areas ,a photo realistic finish is not what you are after.An overall impression of a scene with a few sharp lines for definition applied at the end can give a great result.This is how Degas achieved some of his paintings of ballet dancers.

              You may want to try a more modern,vibrant looking approach.Margaret Evans gives good advice in her books.The Pastel Society exhibits the best of work by artists who are top painters both in their annual exhibition in London and online.


                                          The possibilities are endless.Give pastels a try.

       Click on the link below to have a look at this book on sale from Amazon UK